Peter Rhodes' Express & Star column, taking a sideways look at the week's big news.
CAN you believe the luck of that Abu Hamza? A reader assures me the Christmas panto at the Manhattan Metropolitan Correction Centre this year is going to be Peter Pan.
JUST remember, as food prices start rising and manufacturers blame it all on poor grain harvests around the world, that raw materials make up only a small part of the price of modern foods. In a simple loaf, the flour accounts for only 10 per cent of the total price. In highly processed foods the proportion is even less. So a 30 per cent hike in grain prices should not cause huge price rises in the supermarkets - but profiteering in the board rooms most certainly will.
TWO weeks ago The Food Hospital (C4) sang the praises of watercress. The next day our local and usually well-stocked market, was sold out of watercress in a couple of hours. Remember the Delia effect? More than 10 years ago Delia Smith’s TV tips resulted in soaring sales of cranberries and capers. And when she described her favourite metal pan as “a little gem,” the firm making them, which had been selling only 200 a year, turned out 90,000 in the next four months. Now, The Food Hospital claims blueberries could improve our brain power. Has the panic-buying of blueberries begun?
THE Food Hospital also introduced us to a morbidly obese bloke who had made a special effort to keep his alcohol intake down at a wedding. He had limited himself to 12 pints of Guinness and eight cans of lager and seemed very satisfied. No blueberries there, then.
SOMETIMES we say what we think, not what’s on the script. That seasoned broadcaster Jim Naughtie referred carelessly this week to the “headache” on Jimmy Savile’s grave. Er, headstone.
MEANWHILE, what a revelation Savile’s 1978 autobiography is turning out to be. This is the book that should have been Exhibit A for the prosecution. Relating the tale of one young girl who threw herself at him, Savile says: “Should the reader feel that her folks appear unconcerned, you would not believe the stories I might tell you about some parents.” It seems the DJ was referring to parents who don’t give a damn what their kids are doing so long as there is a chance, however remote, of fame and fortune. So what’s new? There is a long and shameful showbiz tradition of ambitious mothers delivering their daughters to the producer’s casting couch. It may suit police, BBC bosses and Savile’s colleagues to claim that the DJ’s behaviour was hidden by a conspiracy of silence. The truth is that it was there, in black and white, for anyone to read.
BACK in August as the first wave of Boris fever swept the nation, I wrote: “At various stages in his life and career, Boris Johnson has shown himself to have feet of clay.” I am not alone in doubting the London Mayor’s fitness for high office. In the Daily Mail a couple of days ago his former boss Max Hastings who knows him well denounced him as “a gold-medal egomaniac” who is “utterly unfit to go higher still.” No-one denies that Boris can be a charmer, a crowd-pleaser and a great entertainer. But so was George Formby. And when the chips were down in 1940 we were lucky to have Winston Churchill as prime minister and George Formby entertaining the masses, and not the other way around.
AT A time when funeral prices are soaring, I couldn’t feel much sympathy for the reader who wrote to tell me the cremation and delivery of the late Colin’s ashes set his family back a total of £95. Then I read on. Turns out Colin was a rabbit and the bill came from the vet.
AT PRESENT, if you find a burglar on your landing, the safest course is to enquire whether he is armed and, if so, what sort of weapon he has. The law then allows you to select a similar weapon and engage in a fair duel until one of you is disabled or dead. The law on defending your home was probably dreamed up by the same people who developed the Queensberry Rules for boxing. The Tories are now promising that householders can do pretty much as they wish to intruders so long as the force is not “grossly disproportionate”. There is one big snag. Burglars tend to be young, fit and psyched-up for crime. A lot of householders are old, timid, frail and fast asleep. And even if they wake up, half of them are not only totally unarmed but don’t even have their teeth in.
A READER who has been burgled offers this simpler suggestion to deter burlars: “Five years for the first conviction, 10 years for the second and if they do it again, throw away the key.” Anyone have a problem with that?
“LEAF Fall Changes to Train Times” reads the sign put up at a reader’s local station, warning of delays in what it calls “the leaf fall season”. Autumn: season of mists and utter uselessness.